Asthma in America

2023 Q4 Rx Newsletter

November 27, 2023

According to the CDC, 25 million Americans are living with Asthma.1

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a “disease that affects the lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing.”2

Asthma is present in all age brackets in the United States, with varying levels of prevalence. Increased risk factors for asthma are directly tied to poverty, pollution, and environmental conditions. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

Preschool age girl with asthma learns to use an inhaler
  • Roughly 4.7 million children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with asthma, with prevalence increasing with age.1
  • Roughly 2.3 million adults over the age of 18 are diagnosed with asthma, with prevalence peaking at ages 20–24 at 9.5% percent.1

 

Due to the range of severity and age brackets affected, asthma is tied to a wide variety of comorbidities, including, but not limited to:

  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obesity, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), rhinitis/sinusitis, stress, and depression.3
Senior man using an inhaler

Treatments, Cures, and Costs

As of 2011, researchers concluded that asthma costs the United States economy $56 billion.4 While this research has not been repeated since 2011, if we assume an annual increase of 5%, then the approximate cost for asthma-related treatments in 2023 is $100 billion. Prescription drug expenses were the largest portion of the cost associated with these numbers.

As the U.S. population ages and life expectancy increases, the number of individuals living with asthma continues to rise. Asthma is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management and can significantly affect an individual’s quality of life. Even though asthma is not a curable disease, it can be clinically managed through a range of short-term and long-term approaches.

  • Short-term options include inhalers, oral corticosteroids, and short-acting anticholinergic.5
  • There are generic options available for all short-term treatments, with the average cost of generic inhalers ranging from $10 to $25 without insurance.
  • Long-term solutions include corticosteroids, biologic medicines, leukotriene modifiers, long-acting inhalers, and allergy shots.5

 

Employer Action on Asthma

Some employers are beginning to recognize the importance of addressing asthma within their populations. These employers have taken proactive measures to support employees who have asthma and create awareness in an effort to reduce associated healthcare costs. By implementing workplace policies that promote a healthy environment while providing employee resources for asthma management, employers have been able to reduce long-term costs that may have otherwise been unavoidable.

If you have questions about measures employers are taking to address asthma within their employee population, contact our pharmacy practice.

 

Sources:

1.“NHIS Adult Summary Health Statistics,” Center for Disease Control, accessed October 26, 2023, https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/NHIS-Child-Summary-Health-Statistics/wxz7-ekz9

2. “What is Asthma,” Center for Disease Control, accessed October 26, 2023, https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/default.htm

3.“Asthma and Comorbid Conditions,” Asthma Initiative of Michigan, accessed October 26, 2023, https://getasthmahelp.org/asthma-comorbid.aspx

4.“Asthma costs and social impact,” National Library of Medicine accessed October 26, 2023, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5219738/

5. “Asthma Treatment and Action Plan,” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute accessed October 26, 2023, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/asthma/treatment-action-plan\